Dark is Beautiful is an awareness campaign launched in 2009 by Women of Worth that draws attention towards the social problem of ‘being fair’ in India. The campaign is also aimed at celebrating beauty and diversity of all skin colours and tones. It’s supported by Bollywood actress Nandita Das who wants to challenge this belief.
In India, a country where the majority of the population is dark-skinned, beauty and success are synonymous with fairness. More than just a social ‘fad’, it is something more deeply embedded in the culture as a belief that dark skin is inferior to fair. Dark-skinned people face social taunts and are in many cases made to feel like outcasts. They find it harder to get a job or even find a partner as matrimonial ads mostly seek a “fair” or “wheatish” bride.
Fairness creams are sold at all price points from inexpensive sachets to high-end luxury creams. For decades targeted only towards women, this trend is now growing amongst men too. In July 2013, Emami released a TV ad starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. In the ad, Khan tosses a tube of fairness cream to a young fan, telling him that fairness is the secret to success in life. In response, the “Dark is Beautiful”.
Today, the sale of fairness creams generate over US$400 million annually. This is more than sales of all other skincare products combined. This also surpasses the sales of Coca-Cola in India.
Significant change can only occur through education and extensive media coverage. Large corporations like Unilever should be held accountable for their marketing surrounding such issues. As mentioned earlier, the campaign launched in 2009 is yet to receive extensive coverage, however Das’ campaign has made progress in other ways.Several actors and directors, including adman Prahlad Kakkar has come in support of Nandita Das.
Dark is Beautiful website can be accessed by clicking here. They also have a Dark is Beautiful blog where women openly discuss their issues and how in many cases their parents put pressure on them to become fairer.